rashomon

There may be no truth. But there is one of the most brilliant films ever made.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

I’m going with a top 8 this time, even though only the top 5 in each category earn nominations .

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Rashomon
  2. Singin’ in the Rain
  3. High Noon  **
  4. The Bad and the Beautiful
  5. The Lavender Hill Mob
  6. Miss Julie
  7. The Quiet Man  *
  8. Moulin Rouge  *

Analysis:  Only the top 7 are **** films.  But I really could have easily gone to 13 in this category.  There is a bigger point difference between #13 and #14 (5 points), then there is between #7 and and #13 (3 points).  Those other five films, all high-level ***.5 are The Man in the White Suit, Los Olvidados, The Sound Barrier, A Christmas Carol and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse – three British films and two Foreign films.  It also makes 6 films in that Top 13 that weren’t originally released in 1952.  This is a magnificent top 5 – tying 1940 for the 3rd highest to date.

  • Best Director
  1. Akira Kurosawa  (Rashomon)  *
  2. Fred Zinnemann  (High Noon)  *
  3. Stanley Donan  /  Gene Kelly  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  4. Charles Crichton  (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  5. David Lean  (The Sound Barrier)  *
  6. Vincente Minnelli  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  7. Fritz Lang  (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse)
  8. Alf Sjoberg  (Miss Julie)

Analysis:  The next three directors on the list are all Top 100 directors: John Ford (who won the Oscar and the Consensus Award for The Quiet Man), Luis Buñuel (Los Olvidados) and John Huston (Moulin Rouge).  This is the first nomination for Kurosawa (of many), the first for Zinnemann (of a few), the fourth already for Lean (who will win his next three), the first for Crichton (who will wait 37 years for another) and the only for Donan and Kelly.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Rashomon
  2. The Bad and the Beautiful
  3. Miss Julie
  4. The Man in the White Suit
  5. The Quiet Man
  6. A Christmas Carol
  7. The Card
  8. Sudden Fear

Analysis: The list goes on and it includes films adapted from source material I have read, including Carrie, Outcast of the Islands and The Member of the Wedding.  One of the best years in this category to date.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Lavender Hill Mob
  2. Singin’ in the Rain
  3. High Noon
  4. Los Olvidados
  5. The Sound Barrier
  6. Jour de Fete
  7. Pat and Mike
  8. Monkey Business

Analysis:  It’s real close at the top as both films are brilliant, both in their originality and in their hilarity, but Lavender just barely gets the win.  High Noon was actually nominated for Screenplay while the rest were for Story and Screenplay.  That’s because the credits for High Noon credit the story “Tin Star”, but really the film is not based on the story – it had similarities so the filmmakers bought the rights to the story.  So I’m putting it here as an original script because that’s what it really is.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Gary Cooper  (High Noon)  *
  2. Kirk Douglas  (The Bad and the Beautiful)  *
  3. Laurence Olivier  (Carrie)  *
  4. Alec Guinness  (The Lavender Hill Mob)  *
  5. Ralph Richardson  (The Sound Barrier)  **
  6. Gene Kelly  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  7. Jose Ferrer  (Moulin Rouge)  *
  8. Alistair Sim  (A Christmas Carol)  *

Analysis:  There was a seven-way tie for 5th place in the Consensus, with either an Oscar or BAFTA nomination getting you in.  Richardson’s performance is historic – the only Consensus Best Actor winner in history not to earn an Oscar nom, the first, and until 1977 only, New York Film Critics winner not earn an Oscar nom, the only one of the 17 winners of both the NYFC and NBR to not earn an Oscar nom (all but 3 of the other 16 actually won the Oscar), surprisingly the third of four straight NBR winners not to earn an Oscar nom, but still the only NBR / BAFTA winner not earn an Oscar nom and until 2001 the only person to win three Best Actor awards and not earn an Oscar nom (and still only of only two to do it) and it would not be until 2004 when another actor earned more Consensus points without an Oscar nom.
There is not a first-time Nighthawk nominee in the bunch.  This is the third straight nomination for Guinness, the fourth nomination each for Richardson and Cooper, the sixth in sixth years for Douglas and the sixth for Olivier.  Because Douglas has two wins, this moves Douglas into fourth place in points (265) while Olivier is not quite yet in the Top 10 (205).
Olivier’s performance here is often overlooked, given that it wasn’t one of his 10 Oscar noms.  But his Hurstwood (which was BAFTA nominated) is the soul of the film, the performance that makes the film work so well.  It was the only other film he ever made with William Wyler, who he credited with teaching him how to act on film in Wuthering Heights.

  • Best Actress
  1. Anita Bjork  (Miss Julie)
  2. Shirley Booth  (Come Back Little Sheba)  **
  3. Lana Turner  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  4. Julie Harris  (The Member of the Wedding)
  5. Bette Davis  (The Star)
  6. Debbie Reynolds  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  7. Joan Crawford  (Sudden Fear)  *
  8. Jennifer Jones  (Carrie)

Analysis:  Bjork is great but she wouldn’t win in a lot of years (in 1951, she would have ended up in 3rd, in 1950, in 5th).  But it’s a performance often overlooked and it shouldn’t be (maybe the new film version of the play will help).  This is a year filled with strong but not great performances.  Booth is very good (she was the first actress to win the NYFC, NBR and the Oscar and she threw in the Globe for good measure) but I think part of it was the lack of strong competition.  Davis makes my top 5 for a performance that is not nearly as good as her late 30’s / early 40’s work.  This is the 14th (and final) Nighthawk nomination for Davis – more than the other 9 actresses nominated in this year combined (they will earn 13 combined).

  • mifuneBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Toshiro Mifune  (Rashomon)
  2. Richard Burton  (My Cousin Rachel)  *
  3. Donald O’Connor  (Singin’ in the Rain)  *
  4. Anthony Quinn  (Viva Zapata)  **
  5. Burt Lancaster  (Come Back Little Sheba)
  6. Jack Palance  (Sudden Fear)  *
  7. Stanley Holloway  (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  8. Lloyd Bridges  (High Noon)

Analysis:  O’Connor’s Consensus nomination is actually for Best Actor because of his Globe win there, but I feel it’s a supporting role.  This is the first for a lot of Nighthawk nominations for Mifune, Burton and Lancaster.  As opposed to Actor, these are all first-time Nighthawk nominees.

  • badandthebeautifulBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Gloria Grahame  (The Bad and the Beautiful)  **
  2. Machiko Kyo  (Rashomon)
  3. Katy Jurado  (High Noon)  *
  4. Jean Hagen  (Singin’ in the Rain)  *
  5. Colette Marchand  (Moulin Rouge)  *
  6. Gloria Grahame  (Sudden Fear)
  7. Terry Moore  (Come Back Little Sheba)  *

Analysis:  Once again, my Supporting Actress list isn’t as long as the list for other categories.  Jurado is the first Supporting Actress to win the Globe and fail to earn an Oscar nom and still one of only four to do so.  Grahame, it is often pointed out, had, for over 20 years, the shortest performance to win an Oscar, but it was much deserved.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Rashomon
  2. High Noon
  3. Singin’ in the Rain
  4. The Lavender Hill Mob
  5. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  6. The Sound Barrier
  7. Miss Julie
  8. The Bad and the Beautiful

Analysis:  Rashomon, of course, is one of the best edited films of all-time, the story told through the use of its editing.  The Top 5 here is a very strong group, as opposed to the Academy list which included The Greatest Show on Earth, Flat Top and Come Back Little Sheba.  At least they did a good job with the winner.  That will be the theme of this year – the Tech categories were riddled with terrible nominees and decent, if not good choices of winners.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Rashomon
  2. High Noon
  3. Singin’ in the Rain
  4. Miss Julie
  5. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  6. The Sound Barrier
  7. Moulin Rouge
  8. The Quiet Man

Analysis:  This is one of the first years in which the split between black-and-white and color actually seems justified.  Not that the Academy got anything right – I score them at a 23 and a 31 for the two categories.  Two years after earning a Nighthawk nomination for The Asphalt Jungle, Hal Rosson is back with a very different kind of film – Singin’ in the Rain; this gets him up to 100 points and into the Top 10.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Rashomon
  2. High Noon
  3. Moulin Rouge
  4. The Crimson Pirate
  5. The Quiet Man
  6. The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
  7. Viva Zapata
  8. Miss Julie

Analysis:  Dmitri Tiomkin (High Noon) and Georges Auric (Moulin Rouge) each move up to 125 points and into a tie for 7th place.  After 8th place finishes in 49 and 50, Max Steiner earns a 6th place finish here.

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Sound Barrier
  2. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  3. High Noon
  4. Rashomon
  5. Singin’ in the Rain
  6. Moulin Rouge
  7. Rancho Notorious
  8. The Small Back Room

Analysis:  They got the winner of this perfectly right – with all the focus on breaking the sound barrier (some Academy sources list the film as Breaking the Sound Barrier), sound is an important, and perfect part of the film.  Unfortunately that bumps Mabuse, a revolutionary film in its use of sound when it was originally released in 1933, down to 2nd.

  • rashomon400_2Best Art Direction:
  1. Rashomon
  2. Singin’ in the Rain
  3. Moulin Rouge
  4. Miss Julie
  5. Carrie
  6. A Christmas Carol
  7. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  8. My Cousin Rachel

Analysis:  The best group of nominees in this category to date.  And again, it’s easy to split this into color and black-and-white and have a great group of both.  The Academy actually gave the Oscar to The Bad and the Beautiful over Rashomon, Carrie and My Cousin Rachel and their color nominees included The Snows of Kilimanjaro rather than Singin.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Bwana Devil
  2. The Man in the White Suit
  3. The Sound Barrier
  4. The Greatest Show on Earth

Analysis:  Bwana Devil is, of course, the first 3-D color film.  It is a mediocre film but the effects are impressive, especially for the time.  It is also, surprisingly, the better of the two films about the Tsavo maneaters (The Ghost and the Darkness is the other one).

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. The Sound Barrier
  2. The Man with the White Suit
  3. Rashomon
  4. High Noon

Analysis:  The sound effects in The Sound Barrier are impressive, so it’s too bad I couldn’t reward The Man in the White Suit for its innovate use of sound effects (see my review here).

  • Moulin Rouge, 1952.Best Costume Design:
  1. Moulin Rouge
  2. Singin’ in the Rain
  3. Rashomon
  4. Carrie
  5. Miss Julie
  6. A Christmas Carol
  7. Ivanhoe
  8. The Crimson Pirate

Analysis:  Maybe the best of the color / black-and-white splits on the year, as I have four of each in the list (my next two are black-and-white: High Noon and Viva Zapata, but followed up by The Greatest Show on Earth).  Again, as the theme goes in this year, most of the best of the year was actually passed over by the Academy.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Bwana Devil
  2. Moulin Rouge
  3. The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Make ‘Em Laugh”  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  2. “Moses Supposes”  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  3. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin’)”  (High Noon)
  4. “Zing a Little Zong”  (Just for You)

Analysis:  Did they just watch Singin and assume all the songs were old?  Because the two original songs (the first is definitely written for the film and the second one, as far as I have been able to determine, also was) are absolutely brilliant.  It means I have to bump the actual Oscar-winner (which is great) down to third, but seriously, how can those two songs not be at the top of the list?

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis:  Wikipedia lists three feature-length animated films from 1952, all of them Foreign (and thus likely not to have been eligible) and none of which have I seen.

  • ikiruBest Foreign Film:
  1. Ikiru
  2. Forbidden Games
  3. Casque d’Or
  4. The Life of Oharu
  5. Le Plaisir
  6. El Bruto
  7. Umberto D
  8. The White Reindeer

Analysis:  It’s hard when the Academy makes a great choice and still not the right choice.  Forbidden Games is a great film and will be in my Top 5 for 1954, when it is eligible for other awards, but Ikiru is a brilliant film (just check out TSPDT where Forbidden Games is #714 but Ikiru is #107).  But since Kurosawa had won the award the year before it was unlikely they would have given it to him again.  This win moves Kurosawa to first place with 220 points, passing Renoir.  This also moves Japan into a tie for 2nd place with Germany (340 points), but France at this point still has almost as many points as all other countries combined.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • Rashomon  (645)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Foreign Film (1951)
  • High Noon  (360)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Sound Editing, Original Song
  • Singin’ in the Rain  (330)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Song, Original Song
  • The Lavender Hill Mob  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing
  • The Bad and the Beautiful  (220)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Sound Barrier  (220)
    • Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Miss Julie  (190)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Foreign Film (1951)
  • Moulin Rouge  (115)
    • Supporting Actress, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse  (90)
    • Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Foreign Film (1933)
  • The Man in the White Suit  (80)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Carrie  (70)
    • Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Quiet Man  (65)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
  • Come Back Little Sheba  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Los Olvidados  (60)
    • Original Screenplay, Foreign Film (1950)
  • Bwana Devil  (40)
    • Visual Effects, Makeup
  • The Member of the Wedding  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Star  (35)
    • Actress
  • Viva Zapata  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • My Cousin Rachel  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Greatest Show on Earth  (30)
    • Visual Effects, Makeup
  • The Crimson Pirate  (25)
    • Original Score
  • Just for You  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  Rashomon dominates the top categories, but if it were in a different year, it would be a free-for-all.  There are different films in the #2 spots in Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, a real oddity for the Nighthawks.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • A Christmas Carol

Analysis:  The best version of the story on film, with a wonderful performance from Alistair Sim, and I can’t find room for it anywhere.  It ends up in 6th place in Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Costume Design and 8th place in a very crowded Best Actor race.  Hunted is the best film not to appear on the lists above (its highest finish was 15th, which was Best Picture) but An Outcast of the Islands is the ultimate example of a third-tier film.  It is a low ***.5 film (my #16 of the year) and doesn’t make the Top 10 in any category; it does, however, earn 7 Top 20 finishes.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • With a Song in My Heart

Analysis:  Winner of 2 Globes and an Oscar and nominated for 4 more Oscars and the WGA.  But I find this film to be relentlessly mediocre and don’t like Susan Hayward’s performance at all, in spite of the Globe win and Oscar nom – she was beautiful but I never thought she was much of an actress.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Rashomon
  2. High Noon
  3. The Bad and the Beautiful
  4. Miss Julie
  5. Moulin Rouge

Analysis:  This is the first time since 1948 that I don’t have five **** films.

  • Best Director
  1. Akira Kurosawa  (Rashomon)
  2. Fred Zinnemann  (High Noon)
  3. David Lean  (The Sound Barrier)
  4. Vincente Minnelli  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  5. Fritz Lang  (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse)

Analysis:  Lang breaks his tie with John Ford and moves into 2nd place on his own (360 points).  Minnelli is really way out of his depth here among several truly great directors.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Rashomon
  2. The Bad and the Beautiful
  3. Miss Julie
  4. A Christmas Carol
  5. Sudden Fear
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. High Noon
  2. The Sound Barrier

Analysis:  The weakest year in this category since 1945.  Almost all of the worthy original scripts were Comedies.

  • gary-cooper-highnoon-1000Best Actor:
  1. Gary Cooper  (High Noon)
  2. Kirk Douglas  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  3. Laurence Olivier  (Carrie)
  4. Ralph Richardson  (The Sound Barrier)
  5. Jose Ferrer  (Moulin Rouge)

Analysis:  Douglas and Olivier still have the same amount of points but it only gets Douglas to 5th place for Drama and gets Olivier in the Top 10.  This is a strong enough top 5 that I can’t make room for Alistair Sim as the definitive Scrooge.

  • missjulieBest Actress
  1. Anita Bjork  (Miss Julie)
  2. Shirley Booth  (Come Back Little Sheba)
  3. Lana Turner  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  4. Julie Harris  (The Member of the Wedding)
  5. Bette Davis  (The Star)

Analysis:  The weakest five in this category since 1945.  That’s partially because Bjork wouldn’t won this in any year since 1945.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Toshiro Mifune  (Rashomon)
  2. Richard Burton  (My Cousin Rachel)
  3. Anthony Quinn  (Viva Zapata)
  4. Burt Lancaster  (Come Back Little Sheba)
  5. Jack Palance  (Sudden Fear)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Gloria Grahame  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  2. Machiko Kyo  (Rashomon)
  3. Katy Jurado  (High Noon)
  4. Colette Marchand  (Moulin Rouge)
  5. Gloria Grahame  (Sudden Fear)

Analysis:  Kudos to the Globes for the award to Jurado who didn’t even earn an Oscar nom for her strong performance.  Grace Kelly was the beautiful woman in the film but Jurado gave the much stronger performance.

  • Rashomon  (360)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • High Noon  (275)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Bad and the Beautiful  (265)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Miss Julie  (160)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actress
  • The Sound Barrier  (120)
    • Director, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Moulin Rouge  (115)
    • Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Sudden Fear  (100)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Come Back Little Sheba  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse  (45)
    • Director
  • A Christmas Carol  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • Carrie  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Member of the Wedding  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Star  (35)
    • Actress
  • Viva Zapata  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • My Cousin Rachel  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Hunted

Analysis:  A wider array of films, with all of the Top 14 ending up on one list or the other.  Hunted is the other Charles Crichton film in this year, a noir thriller that’s hard to find these days.  This is a low-level ***.5 film.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Singin’ in the Rain
  2. The Lavender Hill Mob
  3. The Quiet Man
  4. The Man in the White Suit
  5. Los Olvidados

Analysis:  The best group of nominees in this category since 1940 and the third-best to date.  This will be the trend as many of the Comedy categories are the best since the early 40’s.  There’s actually a qualifying film that isn’t nominated (The Card) for the time since 1941.

  • Best Director
  1. Stanley Donan  /  Gene Kelly  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  2. Charles Crichton  (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  3. John Ford  (The Quiet Man)
  4. Luis Buñuel (Los Olvidados)
  5. Alexander MacKendrick  (The Man in the White Suit)

Analysis:  Buñuel will eventually be one of the top directors in this category but until the late 60’s this will be his only nomination here.  MacKendrick and Crichton are both described in more detail here because of their great work with Ealing.  This is actually the best group in this category to date.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Man in the White Suit
  2. The Quiet Man
  3. The Card

Analysis:  Only the second best since 1940 because of 1950 but a solid year for a category that is often lacking.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Lavender Hill Mob
  2. Singin’ in the Rain
  3. Los Olvidados
  4. Jour de Fete
  5. Pat and Mike

Analysis:  The best since 1940.  Its top two is let down by the other three but it’s rare to have a top two any better.

  • Lavender-Hill-Mob-3Best Actor:
  1. Alec Guinness  (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  2. Gene Kelly  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  3. Alec Guinness  (The Man in the White Suit)
  4. Alec Guinness  (The Card)

Analysis:  Guinness leaps from not even being the Top 10 all the way to 4th place, behind only Chaplin, Grant and Cagney.  This gives him two wins and five nominations in just three years.  Kelly, a year after a weak win, comes in a very strong 2nd.

  • debbieBest Actress
  1. Debbie Reynolds  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  2. Katharine Hepburn  (Pat and Mike)

Analysis:  Yes, with only two nominees it’s weaker than almost all the other Comedy categories.  And for all that, it’s still the best in this category since 1942.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Donald O’Connor  (Singin’ in the Rain)
  2. Stanley Holloway  (The Lavender Hill Mob)
  3. Victor McLaglen  (The Quiet Man)

Analysis:  O’Connor actually won the Globe for lead, but I feel he’s a supporting role.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Jean Hagen  (Singin’ in the Rain)

Analysis:  Even more embarrassing than Actress because there’s only one nominee and it’s still the second best in this category since 1944.

Points:

  • Singin’ in the Rain  (455)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Lavender Hill Mob  (275)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • The Man in the White Suit  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Quiet Man  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Los Olvidados  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • The Card  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Pat and Mike  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Jour de Fete  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Analysis:  So much an improvement on the previous year it’s not funny.  The winners and the nominees are the best since 1942.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Crimson Pirate

Analysis:  A very enjoyable film with Burt Lancaster as the pirate but not solid in any of the major categories.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  114

By Stars:

  • ****:  7
  • ***.5:  11
  • ***:  66
  • **.5:  25
  • **:  4
  • *:  1
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  67.0

Analysis:  The increase in very good films (***.5) countermands the increase in mediocre films (**.5) and the average film score goes up a little.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Navajo  (Cinematography)  –  *

*  –  Also nominated for Documentary Feature, but I don’t track the Documentary category.

Other Awards Films I Have Not Seen  (in points order):

  • I Believe in You  (BAFTA – British Actress)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  It ranks at #71, the worst since 1937.  The 8th worst all-time among years with 5 nominees.  One of only five years with 5 nominees to have two films lower than ***.  It tops it off with third worst winner of all-time.  Unlike the previous two years the Best Director nominees aren’t a drastic improvement because there’s only one replacement (Five Fingers for Ivanhoe) and it’s not a hugh improvement.

The Winners:  Among the nominees, the Academy does a fairly good job, with a 1.85 average.  That’s less because of good choices and more because the nominees were so bad.  But the average winner rank on the year is an 8.82, which is the worst since 1933.  That’s skewed, though, because of Best Picture, the one category where I rank every film on the year.  Without Best Picture, the year earns a 4.17, which is average for other years in the era.  But The Greatest Show on Earth becomes the first film to win Best Picture and not end up in my Top 100 for the year (it ranks #107).

The Nominees:  The overall score is a 51.4, the worst since 1938.  The Tech categories are terrible, earning a 39.9, the worst since 1947.  Best Picture earns a 38.5, the worst since 1936.  The only categories to earn over a 75 are Screenplay (78.1) and Actor (94.4).

Golden Globe Best Picture – Comedy / Musical:

I had initially considered doing a series on the Golden Globes similar to my one for the Academy Awards.  However, I wanted to focus specifically on the Best Picture – Comedy / Musical category because so many fewer of those films end up getting nominated for Oscars.  In the end, I started the Best Adapted Screenplay and the Nighthawk Awards instead and the former stalled out because the posts were taking too long to research and write.  So I didn’t end up doing it, but I will cover it in smaller detail here in the Nighthawk Awards.

The category began in 1951 but there was only a winner.  This is the first year of a full slate of nominees (and the only year until 1956).  It’s not a great start – it ranks 51 out of 64 (there are five years where Musical and Comedy were separate categories).  And it compounds the problem by giving the award to With a Song in My Heart, one of the weakest winners ever, when Singin’ in the Rain, possibly the best nominee not to win in the history of the category, was right there.

The five nominees are Singin, I’ll See You in My Dreams (which was eligible in 1951), Stars and Stripes Forever, With a Song in My Heart and Hans Christian Anderson.  These are the #2, #61 (in 1951, but would be about the same here), #74, #88 and #97 films on the year.  Of the films that qualify as Comedy or Musical, they are my #1, 16, 21, 26 and 29.  They would have done better with their other nominees: The Happy Time (nominated for Actor, my #49 of the year and #15 Comedy), Pat and Mike (nominated for Actress, my #38 of the year, #11 Comedy) and Monkey Business (nominated for Actress, my #26 of the year, #9 Comedy) even if you were ignoring the great Ealing work.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

I may say it's the best Kurosawa film.  You may say something different.  No one might ever know the truth.

I may say it’s the best Kurosawa film. You may say something different. No one might ever know the truth.

1  –  Rashomon  (dir. Akira Kurosawa)

Almost a decade ago there was an animated film called Hoodwinked.  It was an okay film that gave the same story from multiple viewpoints.  It was often cited as being a Rashomon type-film.  The problem is, that in Hoodwinked, the stories build on each other, so what seemed like different versions of the truth all turned out to work together, depending on the viewpoint.  Which means that either the people who were talking about Hoodwinked had never seen Rashomon (inexcusable for anyone who wants to write about film – it is one of the seminal films in history) or hadn’t understood it.  Hoodwinked actually has a story that only seems different when looked at from different viewpoints – they build on each other to get at the truth of what happened.  The whole point of Rashomon is that when we see truth from different viewpoints sometimes we may never know what happened – that truth itself is somewhere out there in the ether and we might grasp for it but sometimes it remains eternally out of reach.

Rashomon was not the beginning of a key working relationship.  Toshiro Mifune had already played a supporting role in Akira Kurosawa’s 1948 film Drunken Angel and had been the star of Kurosawa’s brilliant Stray Dog, released in 1949.  But Stray Dog wouldn’t make it to the States until 1963 and Drunken Angel would have to wait until 1965.  After winning the Golden Lion in Venice, Rashomon would be released in the last week of December of 1951.  It would win the National Board of Review award for Best Director and an honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  The next year it would be eligible in the other Academy categories and would even earn a nomination for Best Art Direction, the first time any film not from America or Europe had been nominated for an Academy Award.  It would be the world-at-large’s introduction not only to a man who is arguably the greatest director in film history (he ranked #1 in my initial Top 100 list) but also to what, in many people’s opinion (including mine) is the greatest director-actor collaboration in film history.

Rashomon, briefly put, is the story of a murder and a rape.  Or is there a murder?  Is there a rape?  We have a bandit, we have a samurai, we have the samurai’s wife.  Those three people are involved – everyone agrees on that.  And everyone agrees that at the end the samurai is dead, but how?  Did the bandit murder the samurai in cold blood?  Did the bandit and the samurai duel with honor?  Did the wife kill the samurai?  Did the samurai kill himself as a matter of honor?  And was it after a seduction, a mutual coupling or a rape?  All of these revolve around questions of honor, an important function in Japanese society, especially in the years after their defeat in the war.

Then there are the performers.  The samurai (Masayuki Mori) is solid but is the least important of the three (partially because his part of the story isn’t given by him – after all he is dead; a medium presents his side of the story).  His wife is played by Machiko Kyo in a fantastic performance, one of several she gave in great Japanese films through the decade.  The bandit, of course, is played by Toshiro Mifune in a performance that instantly made him a worldwide star.  Is he to be believed?  He laughs at the wrong moments, breaks out into violence, lies, cheats, and all of them with unbelievable charisma; though American audiences wouldn’t see it for years, this is worlds away from his (also great) performance in Stray Dog, just over a year before.  The final key role is played by Takashi Shimura.  Shimura actually had been a Kurosawa performer before Mifune (he had been the lead to Mifune’s supporting role in Drunken Angel).  His is the final side of the story – the witness to all the violence and we can believe him.  Or can we?  Perhaps we are inclined to trust the quiet, unassuming man (especially for those who might have seen Ikiru, released in Japan in 1952 but not in the States until 1960), but the final moments call even his point-of-view into question.  And in the end, this is what Rashomon is all about – not that we might never know the truth, but perhaps, because the world exists with differing points of view, there might not even be a concept of truth.

2  –  Singin’ in the Rain  (reviewed here)

3  –  High Noon  (reviewed here)

It's so good even Dick Powell can't bring it down.

It’s so good even Dick Powell can’t bring it down.

4  –  The Bad and the Beautiful  (dir. Vincente Minnelli)

In 1951, a film directed by Vincente Minnelli would win Best Picture (not a good choice).  In 1958, a film directed by Minnelli would sweep the Oscars, winning 9, including Picture and Director (a terrible choice).  In between he would make the best film of his career.  It would not be nominated for Picture or Director.  Yet, it would earn 6 Oscars nominations (tied for 3rd most to that point without Picture or Director).  It would win 5 Oscars (not only the record for most Oscars by a film not nominated for Picture and Director, but the only film to win that many not nominated for either Picture or Director).  Even stranger, it would win Best Screenplay (the precursor to Adapted Screenplay); it would not only be the first to win this category without a Picture nomination but it would take another 44 years before another film would do it and still today only 3 films have done it.  It is also, to my mind, easily the best film he ever directed (it is 12 points higher than any of his other films and 21 points higher than his third-best).

Two years after Sunset Blvd, not only the best film ever made about Hollywood but the best film ever made, we have the flip sides of Hollywood.  In Singin‘, we have the sheer joy of moviemaking, the fun people can have behind the scenes, in the creative process, in their lives, and, of course, in bringing “a little joy into your humdrum lives.”  Then there is The Bad and the Beautiful, the film about the way Hollywood forces you to destroy your colleagues, to stab your friends in the back, to hate yourself and to die alone.

This is the story of Jonathan Shields, as seen through the various people he has stabbed in the back.  We get a notion at the beginning of the film as to what kind of man he is when none of the main characters will take his calls.  But, then, we get to see his actual story through their eyes.  For a while he seems like another Hollywood type – raised in the world of film by a father who left him nothing (he pays extras to mourn at the funeral), Shields rises through the ranks, using his charm and his cunning, eventually graduating from B pictures to first class films.  It is at that moment, when he takes the man who has been his partner and stabs him so cleanly in the back, that we realize he is in this to succeed and he will get what he can out of you, but he will not hesitate to cut you off at the knees if it will get him ahead.  And so we watch him move up, through the eyes of a director, a drunk he makes into a star (Lana Turner, in easily the best performance she ever gave) and a writer (he keeps the writer focused by getting an actor to whisk away his wife – the wife is played excellently by Gloria Grahame, who won a deserved Oscar for all-too-brief role).  He knows other men’s limitations and he knows his own.  He knows how to make art out of a B film and he knows when the cut the losses and leave a film to the vaults that’s not good enough to see the dark of the theater.

This is the ugly side of Hollywood and it’s revealed all the more so in an ending that speaks of hope and ugliness at the same time.  He has a new pitch, and all his old cohorts have said no, but he keeps pitching and the final shot is the three of them, all of whom have been betrayed by this man, listening raptly to his pitch over the phone and we just know where this all will head.  Because in Hollywood, the only thing that matters is today and sometimes, like with sausage and the law, we really don’t want to see how something is made.

5  –  The Lavender Hill Mob  (reviewed here)

The rise of the Sci-Fi film in the 50's lead to a lot of really bad Sci-Fi films.

The rise of the Sci-Fi film in the 50’s lead to a lot of really bad Sci-Fi films.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Red Planet Mars
  2. Ruby Gentry
  3. Les Miserables
  4. Lure of the Wilderness
  5. Jumping Jacks

Red Planet Mars  (dir. Harry Horner)

I’m going to digress for a minute, but it’s for a reason.  I’m obsessed with greatness, in film, music, literature, sports.  It grows out of OCD and an obsession with lists.  I have my own lists, obviously, and with the Consensus Awards, I make use of other lists.  I thought at one point of doing a Consensus list for the great films before I found TSPDT.  Now that’s a wonderful website and they’ve done a lot of work so I recommend them.  I have seen their entire Top 1000 list.  But lately, before I get to each year in the awards, I have been torturing myself by going through their larger list – the 11,000 starting film list they begin with.  I have now seen well over 60% of the list and, well, their starting list is very odd.  There are lots of really really bad films on the list and I don’t know how they derived the list; hell, there are films that no one has ever seen or weren’t even finished on the list.  But I’m still watching my way through it as best I can.  And that, from this point forward, has lead me to a lot of the films that will end up as the Worst of the Year.  Unlike some people, I don’t enjoy bad films and so I don’t seek them out deliberately.  So a lot of these films I never intended to see, but, well, the OCD took over.  So that’s why I’ve seen Red Planet Mars, and a lot of other films in upcoming years.  To be fair, a number of them are also in one of the three volumes of Danny Peary’s Cult Films, a very good series that hooked me as a kid even though I disagree with a lot his opinions.

Red Planet Mars combines two genres that would produce many truly awful films in this era: Sci-Fi and McCarthyism.  In 1953, separate films from these genres (Robot Monster and Invasion USA) would each be the worst film in 1952, but neither will be the worst of 1953 because of the presence of Glen or Glenda.

Let me give you a brief rundown of the plot of this film and I will stress that I am not making any of this up.  An astronomer (played with all the emotions of a piece of wood by Peter Graves – it’s incredible he could be so bad in this film when he would be so solid the next year in Stalag 17 – yes the dialogue here is unbearably bad and in Stalag he’s doing Billy Wilder dialogue, but still) starts seeing images from Mars that suggest a technology at work there.  At the same time, messages from Mars start coming to Earth by radio.  Then it ends up suggesting that the world can be saved if everyone restores their belief in God.  But, oh, then it turns out this is the work of an ex-Nazi broadcasting from South America (at the instructions from the Russians, because, you know, Nazis were so quick to work for the Russians in the takedown of the Christian West).  But, no, it’s not, because the messages continue after the Nazi is killed in an avalanche.  Seriously, I am not making any of this up.  And none of this is redeemed by any quality in acting (incredibly wooden), writing (unbearably bad) or production values (made on a budget of several dozen dollars).

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Rashomon  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Rashomon  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Rashomon  (645)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • 2nd Place Award:  Singin’ in the Rain  (Picture, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Song)
  • 6th Place Award:  A Christmas Carol  (Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Bad and the Beautiful  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Rashomon  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Rashomon  (360)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  My Cousin Rachel
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Singin’ in the Rain  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Singin’ in the Rain  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Singin’ in the Rain  (455)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Pat and Mike

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point; ** ties a Nighthawk record

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Frankenstein  /  The Magnificent Ambersons  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Captain Blood  /  Henry V  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (440)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (555)
  • Director:  Howard Hawks  /  William Wyler  (360)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (600)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Akira Kurosawa  (220)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following, avg. score is afterwards, in parenthesis):

  • Drama:  49 (8)  –  Rashomon  (66.7)
  • Foreign:  19  –  Rashomon  (71.0)
  • Comedy:  17 (6)  –  The Quiet Man  (68.9)
  • Musical:  15 (2)  –  Singin’ in the Rain  (65.0)
  • Suspense:  10  –  Hunted  (70.3)
  • Adventure:  7  –  The Crimson Pirate  (62)
  • Western:  5  –  High Noon  (74.2)
  • War:  5 (2)  –  What Price Glory  (62.4)
  • Crime:  4 (2)  –  The Lavender Hill Mob  (75.5)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  A Christmas Carol  (85)
  • Sci-Fi:  1  –  Red Planet Mars  (17)
  • Action:  0
  • Horror:  0
  • Kids:  0
  • Mystery:  0

Analysis:  The only genre which has a drastic difference is War, which goes from 11 films to 5.  War also is the genre with the big drop in quality – down five points (Sci-Fi drops dramatically but that’s skewed by only having one film).  Many of them go up dramatically – Comedy is up 6 points, Western up 11 and Crime up an incredible 15 points.  Comedy has its highest average since 1944 and Western its highest since 1939.

After no genre winning the Nighthawk Award more than two consecutive years before 1948 we now have the fourth straight Drama to win the award (a streak which will continue to 1955).  Gene Kelly has the stuff – Singin’ in the Rain becomes the first Musical to make the Top 10 since Anchors Aweigh.  There are 5 Comedies in the Top 20 – the most since 1944.

Studio Note:

MGM has its lowest year in four years and still has the second most films (16).  The only other studios with more than 11 are 20th Century-Fox (18) and RKO (14).  United Artists has 11 – its most since 1945 while Warners only has 6 – its least since 1929.  Universal averages an incredible 77.5, namely because of its distribution of the three Alec Guinness comedies (two of which are Ealing films).  Its the best for Universal since 1933 and the best from any studio since 1937.  Fox, on the other hand, is awful; it has no films in the Top 20 (the first time since 1942), has three of the worst four and five of the worst 10.  The overall average for Fox is a 60.9, its worst since 1937.

Universal has four films in the Top 20 and all of them are British films.  RKO wins its third Best Picture (and last); this is the first time that a Foreign film wins the Nighthawk having been distributed by a major US studio.  Rashomon is the only RKO film in the Top 20.

25 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director and country in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award – an asterisk means it won the Oscar):

  • Amei um Bicheiro  (Ileli, Brazil)
  • Baiju Bawra  (Bhatt, India)
  • El Bruto  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Casque d’Or  (Becker, France)
  • The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Forbidden Games  (Clement, France)  *
  • The Goddess  (Krishnan, India)
  • The Golden Coach  (Renoir, France)
  • Ikiru  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Le Plaisir  (Ophuls, France)
  • The Life of Oharu  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • The Little World of Don Camillo  (Duvivier, France)
  • Manon of the Spring  (Pagnol, France)
  • Mexican Bus Ride  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Nan zheng bei zhan  (Cheng, China)
  • Nobody’s Children  (Matarazzo, Italy)
  • The Overcoat  (Lattuada, Italy)
  • Secrets of Women  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Simon the One-Eyed  (Cavalcanti, Brazil)
  • Two Cents Worth of Hope  (Castellani, Italy)
  • Umberto D  (De Sica, Italy)
  • We Are All Murderers  (Cayette, France)
  • The White Reindeer  (Blomberg, Finland)
  • The White Sheik  (Fellini, Italy)
  • A Woman Without Love  (Buñuel, Mexico)

Note:  For the third year in a row there’s a country with 7 films and again it’s a different country – this time France.  I also have my first film from Finland, and it’s a very good one (The White Reindeer, which I saw because it would win the Globe in 1957 when it’s eligible for other awards).  After 21 films in only 4 years, Mexico has only three films and they’re all Buñuel films.  The Top 10 Foreign Films from this year are the best Top 10 since 1902-26 (which isn’t fair, so that year had a lot of films built up to qualify).

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse  (1933)
  • The Ballad of Berlin  (1948)
  • Jour de Fete  (1949)
  • The Small Back Room  (1949)
  • Les Enfants Terribles  (1950)
  • The Fall of Berlin  (1950)
  • Flowers of St. Francis  (1950)
  • Los Olvidados  (1950)
  • A Christmas Carol  (1951)
  • Cry the Beloved Country  (1951)
  • The Lavender Hill Mob  (1951)
  • The Medium  (1951)
  • Miss Julie  (1951)
  • Olivia  (1951)
  • Rashomon  (1951)

Note:  Thanks to three of my Top 7 being on this list, these 15 films average a 77.4.

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Above and Beyond  (1953)
  • Angel Face  (1953)
  • Casque d’Or  (1953)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest  (1953)
  • Invasion U.S.A.  (1953)
  • The Little World of Don Camillo  (1953)
  • Mandy  (1953)
  • Angels One Five  (1954)
  • Folly to Be Wise  (1954)
  • Forbidden Games  (1954)
  • The Golden Coach  (1954)
  • The Holly and the Ivy  (1954)
  • Le Plaisir  (1954)
  • The Overcoat  (1954)
  • Othello  (1955)
  • The Pickwick Papers  (1955)
  • Umberto D  (1956)
  • The White Reindeer  (1957)
  • The White Sheik  (1957)
  • We Are All Murderers  (1958)
  • Ikiru  (1960)
  • Secrets of Women  (1961)
  • Mexican Bus Ride  (1963)
  • The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice  (1964)
  • The Life of Oharu  (1964)
  • Limelight  (1972)
  • El Bruto  (1983)

Note: These films average a 71.4, although if you factor out Invasion U.S.A. it goes up to a 73.9.  If I went by original year, Rashomon and The Lavender Hill Mob wouldn’t be in the Top 5 because they would be in 1951 but Ikiru and Forbidden Games would replace them.

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